There is an old Chinese curse that goes: “May you live in interesting times.”
It is aimed at impatient people; people who are bored; people who want change for the sake of change.
The implication is that although you may hate the status quo, you would be wise to beware of what comes after.
When the third goal went in up at Everton I had a strong feeling that we may be witnessing the end of era.
And not just any era. When the end of the Arsene Wenger era comes it will be the footballing equivalent of the Fall of Rome.
Compared with M. Wenger’s tenure, the reigns of other football managers are mere hillocks in the landscape of history. Wenger’s reign is a mountain – an elegant, ice-capped peak whose stature is rivaled only by the craggy, fractured slopes of Mount Fergie – a once-thunderous volcano now sitting sullenly dormant.
Why did I wonder if we were watching the end of this era?
Because it seemed unfair to ask him to take much more of this punishment: to watch his team (and by extension himself) humiliated again; to know the vitriol and hatred that would inevitably follow; to turn up to work the next day and have to start all over again.
If we fail to beat Wigan this weekend I now feel he will call it quits at the end of the season.
If we get to the Cup Final and lose, ditto.
If we win the Cup and finish fifth… again, ditto.
If we win the Cup and finish fourth… well, that’s a tougher one but I still suspect he will call it a day. He will see out his contract as he famously always does. And then he will bid us all farewell.
Few of us would blame him. Few of us could take the incessant criticism and abuse without it seriously affecting our mental health and our sense of our own worth. The fact that he has stuck it out this long is a testimony to his fortitude and intelligence.
But when he is driven out of the club to which he has contributed so much, we will be entering “interesting times.”
There is a lazy assumption that we will snap up some hotshot young manager who will immediately achieve the success that has eluded M. Wenger. Not so long ago the people who advocated this approach were all for us bringing in Michael Laudrup or Paul Lambert. Or even Andre Villas Boas, heaven help us.
Well, if Arsene Wenger quits we should prepare for a rocky road.
Yes, we could do an Everton. We could find a younger manager who lifts us to another level, but there is a greater likelihood of us doing a Manchester United.
And it will not take too long before people start looking back on the Wenger Era with nostalgia and affection.
This is not a Post about whether or not he should go. For the record I think he should stay because I believe that with a proper transfer budget this summer building on the excellent squad we currently have he can again fashion a team of champions.
If we flattered to deceive at times this season with our table-topping run, the heavy away defeats to big teams are equally an unfair reflection of our capabilities.
However I can understand those who feel his time is up, that the failings have become chronic and beyond his ability to fix. I am happy to accept that he is far from perfect: that he should have bought another striker in January; that he should have got to the bottom of our injury issues by now and much more.
Many decent and respectful Gunners have now reluctantly come to the conclusion that he should go. They tend to be drowned out by the clamour of the ignorant and the abusive who express similar sentiments in unacceptable ways.
And we are fast approaching the time, I fear, when these people will get their way.
I am not looking forward to it.
However, for now I will make a particular point of appreciating our manager whatever the results, whatever we achieve or fail to achieve in the remainder of the season.
These may be his last days and I will give them the respect they and he are due. It’s more important than winning and losing.
After one of our recent heavy defeats a better man than me had this to say:
“Football is only truly a business to those who A, rely on it for their salary or B, own shares in it. For the rest of us it is either a passion, a way of life or in many cases a family tradition.
“For me it has been a distraction and motivation through life that has taken my mind off business and filled the boring hours on uncountable motorways and airports and created opportunities to meet and make friends on many a terrace and in many places when I would have been lonely without it.
“Funny game football, which is why I find it amusing that so many of us who have no first hand experience of the business called AFC feel qualified to pass judgement on the course and direction of an entity for which we have no first hand knowledge. Even the mighty guardians entrenched in the fourth estate pontificate their perceived wisdom based on at best second hand information or at worst self published claptrap. As for living in the past – knowledge is gained through experience and what we see today is often relevant to the history of which we are all part.”
But then dandan always did have a way of finding the right words to encourage the better angels of our nature.